21st January 1826


But, hold! My hand trembles!

I must begin from the beginning.

We went across the road in our finest get-outs and took afternoon tea with Mrs Hathersage. We were shown into the parlour by her manservant, Appledore, a pinched-looking, rickety old personage. Indeed, he brought out the tea things with such a peculiar jerking of his ancient limbs that we all feared dreadfully for the china. Knees, elbows and saucers struck out here and there at the most unlikely angles; and he wheezed and creaked with every step. Mrs Hathersage, however, seemed quite oblivious to this comical performance, and remarked that her niece would appear presently. Consequently, while Mama made idle conversation about the weather, I took the opportunity of observing (as any aspiring playwright should!).

Mrs H., in short, is a very curious old creature, stubbornly dressed in mourning for a husband whom, we learned, she lost some twenty odd years ago. I confess, I was surprised she ever had a husband and wondered was he lost or did he merely stray? For I am sure that no respectable gent would want to live with such a queer old woman! For she does keep the house horribly cold and dark – Fanny was positively shivering by the time we departed – and presents the most sour face to the world. She also has a peculiar habit of squinting at you, while twisting her creaking neck this way and that. It is quite awful, like being perpetually stared out of countenance by a wicked old raven. The only saving grace was that there were scones – or, at least, until she finally came – SELENA!

[nb. I do not mean that she ate all the scones]

Mrs Hathersage’s great-niece is tall; a similar age to Fanny, and perhaps a little haughty in her manner but … her hazel-brown eyes! her pale ivory complexion! her delicate ankles! …

I cannot quite believe it – nevertheless I must confess it to myself –


I have not vouchsafed this remarkable eruption of manly sentiment to a single soul. I tremble even as I think about it. Who would have thought that my youthful heart would be so afflicted? Would that I could have reached out straightaway, when she buttered her scone, and grasped her hand in mine – first carefully removing the knife – and declared myself! Would that I had any words ready upon my lips fit for her delicate ears! For my yearning heart cries out the words SELENA HATHERSAGE in SILENCE.

I wish I had worn my waistcoat now. I know I should have made a far better impression. I am not sure that she even noticed me; and she barely said a word when we parted.


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